Sunday, June 13, 2010

When a Setback is a Breakthrough

I had a conversation I didn't like this week. I've been talking to people I know in non-profit organizations about the launch of my coaching business, primarily because most of my experience is in the non-profit arena. I also believe in the stated vision of many non-profit organizations, and I would love to be a part of creating their visions. Many of these people know me as a musician and composer, but they don't have a full picture of my experience, so the conversations were a sort of re-introduction, as if they were meeting a part of me they hadn't seen before. Most of these connections were incredibly encouraging and rewarding.

One person thought he already knew all there was to know about me. This was the conversation I didn't like. Although I explained what sort of contribution I envisioned making as a coach, he kept mirroring back the label consultant, which has a much different connotation in terms of expertise, credentialing, and price tag. I listened patiently, wanting to really take in the challenges this person saw in what I am creating, recognizing that there are probably plenty of people I don't know who may draw the same conclusions. But at one point, I spoke up a bit more boldly.

It was when he stated very frankly, "I don't know how I could possibly recommend you to anyone. You have no credentials or experience with non-profit management, or a track record aside from a couple of music projects." That got to me. On a certain level, I started defending myself, but I allowed a boldness to be evoked that I often dismiss. There was certainly an edge to my tone of voice when I responded, but instead of brushing off the comment as ill-informed (or worse) and moving on with my life, I addressed the challenge head-on.

I went away from the conversation disheartened and questioning the viability of my vision, even though I had talked with several other people who understood and encouraged what I am creating. The truth is I have personally overseen the production of two CD projects, including writing and performing all of the musical content and forging alliances that would bring the projects to fruition. I have worked in non-profits for 20 years, much of that time in a leadership role, and that included religious, arts-oriented, and educational organizations. I have demonstrated in my personal achievements and my organizational influence that I can successfully create and follow a purpose-based action plan, and it's a skill I am constantly improving.

This is all information that most people will not have about me, unless I am willing to tell them. And something was missing from this individual's perception of me that didn't match up with what he thought I was creating, and he knows me as a creative person. As I mulled that conversation over, I realized that I was dismissing a huge portion of my identity in my new endeavor. My creativity is one of the greatest strengths I bring to the table, and it was barely playing into my action plan for establishing a coaching identity. When I began to think about how I could shift my "brand" and marketing to a creativity focus, I felt energized and confident. It fits.

What seemed at first to be a setback actually became a breakthrough because of what I did with that conversation. I now recognize that I will have greater success connecting with people if I am bold about who I am. And I am now consciously embracing creativity as a strength to be proclaimed. Creativity is a part of everything I do, after all.

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